Microdrama genre faces new challenges (or opportunities) as regulator seeks to strengthen control

China’s regulator of film, television and web series, the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), has proposed to “strengthen and refine management” of the burgeoning microdrama genre with 7 new measures, according to the South China Morning Post.

The microdrama is a form of web series that consists of episodes between under a minute to 15 minutes each. It has steadily mushroomed on social media platforms over the past few years.

The proposed measures include establishing a “content-screening system” and “extend[ing] its supervision to the distribution networks”. A “month-long special action” will be performed to review the aspects of the microdrama market, which will include “casting, production, storylines, marketing and distribution” as well as “social value”.

It’s not the first time the Administration attempted to regulate the popular form of content. In late 2022, the NRTA started a 3-month campaign to regulate WeChat mini program-based microdramas. It resulted in the pulling of 25,300 series (or 1,365,004 episodes) from platforms for sexual, violent or vulgar content.

These kinds of actions have become a regular part of content moderation on platforms such as Douyin, Kuaishou, Tencent, Bilibili and Xiaohongshu over the past year. More than 350,000 episodes were taken down across platforms since March 2023 while 429 mini-programs and 2,988 accounts were shut down. Blacklists have been compiled by platforms so rule-breaking content producers cannot resurface with new accounts.

Coinciding with the new announcement from NRTA, platforms such as Bilibili and Douyin made their own announcements pulling several microdramas and pledging to further regulate microdrama content on their websites or apps.

Chen Duan, director of the Digital Economy Integration Innovation Development Center at the Central University of Finance and Economics, argued in an interview with the state-owned newspaper Securities Daily that by filtering out lower-quality content, the regulations will in the end benefit leading content producers.


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